May 2024 Mentor Spotlight

Mentor Spotlight: Brittney Williams, MD MPH

Mentor Bio: Brittney Williams is from Newark, NJ and attended Howard University for undergraduate education and medical school. She completed her General Surgery residency at UNC Chapel Hill, during which she obtained her MPH in global public health and was an NIH Fogarty Global Health fellow. She is now a Thoracic Surgery fellow at Emory University.

Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in surgery?

A: My mother was a Neurosurgical Physician Assistant (PA). I grew up around surgeons and was always interested in the field. During my general surgery residency, I became interested in thoracic oncology and esophageal cancer populations in Africa. Finally, after my grandfather's life was saved with a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) placement, I knew that Cardiothoracic (CT) Surgery was the field for me.

Q: What has been the most challenging part of your journey so far? How did you navigate this challenge?

A: The most challenging part of my journey thus far has been dealing with imposter syndrome. As a woman in surgery, particularly a Black woman in surgery, I have always had exceedingly high expectations for myself in order to prove that I belong. It has been my fantastic community of peers and mentors who have encouraged me to accept achievements and learn from mistakes. They help me remember that in either case, I deserve to be here.

Q: How have you incorporated your research interests into your career?

A: My research interests include global surgery, thoracic oncology, and patient-reported outcomes. While I was able to spend two years of dedicated research time during residency, fellowship has been a busy time with a lot to learn. I have however been able to maintain some ongoing research projects within these interests and plan to have an academic practice once I am finished.

Q: What advice do you have for mentees interested in surgery?

A. The advice I would give any student interested in surgery is to spend as much time as you can in the OR, write every single step down no matter how small, maintain a core group of mentors and sponsors that can help guide you through the process, and to pay it forward once you’re in the position to help the next generation.

Interviewer: Katherine Drew Marapese

Interviewer Bio: Katherine Drew Marapese is an MD/MBA candidate at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She earned a BS in Chemistry from the United States Naval Academy. She is the Vice Chair of the AWS National Medical Student Committee and previously served as the Southeast Regional Representative. Katherine Drew met Dr. Williams in 2021 when she assisted with Dr. Williams’ Fogarty Fellowship research with UNC Project-Malawi. She is honored to share this mentor spotlight highlighting Dr. Williams.



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